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New Day

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) is Interviewed about Covid, Immigration, Ukraine and Lobster Protests; Steve Kelly is Interviewed about Syed's Release; Offensive Chant at Oregon/BYU Football Game. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 08:30   ET




REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): This country.

I guess over it should have been (ph), you know, subjective in terms of what does "over" mean.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to disagree with the president.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We need some more resources to be sure that it's over.


BERMAN: So, the number of deaths from Covid has decreased significantly since the last big spike in March, but more than 400 people a day are still dying from the virus.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now, we have independent Senator Angus King of Maine. He is on the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.

You know, I wanted to talk to you first about this move to dispense with some relief funds for Covid. What do you think about that? And do you -- what do you think about this, especially as we see this move away from the pandemic, but at the same time maybe some need for them?

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Well, John just mentioned, 400 people a day is still a lot of people. If that were a terrorist attack, we'd be turning ourselves upside down to do something about it. And I think what the president meant, and I don't want to interpret for him, but the massive sort of shutdowns and masks and all of that, we are moving beyond that. But why we need additional funds is to keep the door shut. It's for therapeutics and vaccines. The reason we've gotten where we are is vaccination. The statistics are overwhelming, 80 percent, 90 percent of the people who are hospitalizes are unvaccinated. So, we do need additional funds to keep it down, to keep it from coming back, particularly the new variants.

KEILAR: You see this -- I wanted to talk to you now about immigration. You see this shift that's really a big shift of where migrants are coming from. Less Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. A 175 percent increase from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

What is causing this shift in the nations of where migrants are coming from?

KING: Well, in the first place, it's -- you're right, it's -- this is a dramatic change because the -- well, there's been three phases. The first phase was Mexico where everybody got -- thought about Mexican immigrants coming to the border, trying to cross the border. Then it was the three central American countries. The so-called triangle down there. And that's where they were coming from.

Now, Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua are mostly fleeing oppressive communist regimes that the regimes have lack of control, no economic opportunity, a lot of corruption. So, this is a - this is a new - a new wave, as you say. It's sort of reverse what we've had in the last few years. And it points out the fact that we've really got to do something about trying to cut this off at the source.

Now, here's the problem. You send aid and try to support those countries that are struggling to be not such dangerous places that make people want to flee, but with the corruption, you don't know that the money ever gets where it belongs, where it should be in order to help people help them stay where they are instead of feeling they have to come here.

KEILAR: What are you hearing from your Republican colleagues, because there are some unique challenges when you're talking about people fleeing from communist regimes.

KING: Well, you know, we have a law that goes back years and years and years, I'm not sure, probably into the '60s, that if you get to this country from Cuba, which was, of course, Castro and the communists, you put your foot on American soil, you're in. And I can't remember what it's called, one foot, wet foot or wet foot dry foot, something like that. So, I'm interested to see whether those who advocated for immediate entrance for people from Cuba will also say the same for Nicaragua and Venezuela because the issue is the same, these people are fleeing communism.

But, Brianna, there's a larger issue here. We need to deal with the border, but the problem is the debate about immigration has become so emotional and so political we're forgetting about legal immigration and the need we have in this country for workers, at all levels, Ph.Ds to manual labor.

And I had a CEO in my office last week who made a speech -- a graduation speech at an engineering school. He said 80 percent to 90 percent of the graduates were from foreign countries. None of them can stay here. These are people we need. We need to figure out how to do legal immigration safely while, at the same time, dealing with security at the border. I think that can be done. And I can tell you that there's some sort of quiet discussions going on in the Senate to try to find a way forward.

KEILAR: That you are a part of, I assume?

KING: Yes, ma'am.

KEILAR: All right, it is a staggering brain drain, for sure.

As we are looking at Ukraine trying to hold the land that it has been able to clear, that it has taken back from Russia, right now the U.S. is providing weapons for missiles for the HIMARS systems that go about 50 miles.

KING: Right.

KEILAR: Ukraine would obviously like them to go further. But going 200 miles, the U.S. says no.


Fifty miles, yes.

What would reach that threshold for you of saying yes to a weapon that would go 200 miles?

KING: Well, the reason the administration, I think, is reluctant, we had a briefing on this just yesterday, is -- there are a number of reasons, some of which I can share with you, some I can't. But the reason is it would clearly be an escalation. It would clearly invite Putin to take further escalatory steps.

I think, in answer to your question, what would it take for me to support those additional weapons would be if Putin escalates. And here's the great danger, Brianna. Here's -- the paradox of the situation we're in right now is, the better the Ukrainians do, the more dangerous Putin becomes. The more he's backed into a corner.

And he's getting pressure in Russia, if you read the press, not from people who say let's get this over with, let's get out. He's getting pressure from people saying do more. And his pattern in Aleppo, in Syria, in Grozny, in Chechnya, is bomb the crap out of them. Civilians, carpet bomb. And that's what I'm worried about. I think the most likely next step is for Putin to step up attacks on civilian infrastructure and then we're going to have to think about how we and the Ukrainians respond.

KEILAR: Before I let you go, I want to talk to you about something that obviously Maine is very well known for, and that is lobster, because lobster, which is on menus across the country, has been put on the seafood watch monitoring program's list as red, which is to say avoid while eating. And I know that you're taking issue with that. What are you saying in response to that?

KING: Well, let me give you -- I'll start with two numbers, aero and zero. Zero evidence that Maine lobster gear is a danger to right whales and zero historic record of right whales ever dying as a result of entanglement in Maine lobster gear.

KEILAR: Why are they saying this then?

KING: Well, I don't know. They're on a mission. And the problem is, Brianna, they're putting thousands of people out of business, or they're trying to. This is - this is like the death sentence commercially. They're saying, don't buy Maine lobsters. And there's no evidence that - the science just isn't there.

Plus, the Maine lobstermen, I don't want to say industry, because it's really 5,000 sole proprietors with boats and families, they've done incredible work over the past 15 years to avoid even the slightest risk, weak links in ropes, less rope in the water, weaker ropes, all of those marked gear, all of those things. And this outfit in California doesn't count that. They say, well, that hasn't been proved to be effective. Never mind that what they're claiming, that it's a danger to right whales, that hasn't been proved either.

And what really bothers me is, it's guilty until proven innocent. And people's livelihoods, whole communities up and down the Maine coast, are at stake. It's an utterly irresponsible action by a self-appointed judge, jury, and executioner. And we're trying to persuade them to look at the data, at the science, and say, no, there's not enough evidence here to convict all of these thousands of good people in Maine.

KEILAR: Well, Senator, we appreciate your time on a myriad of topics this morning.

KING: Yes, we did cover the loaf.

KEILAR: We sure did. Thank you for coming in.

KING: Great to be here, Brianna.

KEILAR: The man whose legal saga sparked the hit podcast "Serial" now free after more than 20 years in prison. So, how does the family of Hae Min Lee, the young woman whose murder he was in prison for, feel about his release? The lawyer for the family is with us, next.



KEILAR: The murder he was convicted for launched one of the most popular podcasts in history. Adnan Syed, the man convicted of the 1999 killing of his former high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, walked out of a Maryland courtroom after more than two decades behind bars. A Baltimore judge vacated Syed's murder conviction and life sentence after finding that prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence and that two other suspects may have been involved in Lee's murder, including a person who, according to prosecutors, said they would make Lee, quote, disappear and would, quote, kill her. Syed's case drew national attention with the hit podcast "Serial" in

2014. And during yesterday's hearing, Lee's brother told the courtroom, this isn't a podcast for me. This is real life. Whenever I think it's over, it's ended, it always comes back.

Joining us now is the attorney for Hae Min Lee's family, Steve Kelly.

Steve, thank you so much for taking the time with us this morning.

Can you tell us, you know, what has this been like for the family, and do they still believe that Adnan Syed is guilty?

STEVE KELLY, ATTORNEY FOR HAE MIN LEE'S FAMILY: This is -- the family has described it best, I think, Young Lee, her brother, described it in court best when he said that he feels both blindsided and betrayed. Blindsided by what happened in the court yesterday and the way that the family was treated. And betrayed by the state's attorney's office that for 20 years had told them, this is the guy who murdered your daughter and sister.

The issue with - you know, they were told, whether or not Adnan is guilty is beside the point. That - that -- this is what they have been told for decades upon decades. And the issue is that nobody wants to find out who killed Hae more than her brother and her mom. Nobody.

And what happened yesterday was that they were completely excluded from the process. This is a preordained agreement between the state's attorney's office, the defense, and even the court. And no one wanted to hear from or give them an adequate opportunity to oppose this, or even to understand it.


I mean the family -- these are people who are very simple, hard- working people. They're not sophisticated lawyers. But they have an open mind about new evidence.


KELLY: They're reasonable people. And all they wanted was information, why. Tell us, state's attorney's office, why, after 20 years of telling us that this is the person who did it, that his conviction was fair and just, why are you now changing? And the answers are not clear. The motion that was filed by the state's attorney's office was not clear. It, you know, talked about incomplete investigation.

KEILAR: I mean -

KELLY: Go ahead.

KEILAR: Steve, I mean, that desire for some understanding is completely understandable, I will say.

I do have some questions for you.

One of -- some of the things that the state's attorney for Baltimore said yesterday, that of these two possible alternative suspects, that one of the two is convicted of attacking a woman in a vehicle later. One of the two later convicted of serial rape and sexual assault. One of the two had threatened to kill Lee around the time of her murder. That Ms. Lee's car was discovered directly behind the house of a family member of one of these potential suspects. Was that all news to her family?

KELLY: We -- I have to walk a little bit of a line here because we don't want to get into the substance. But what we can say, and into the merits of the state's motion, what we can say is that there was not enough information provided either in court or in the motion to determine whether these people were new. In fact, the information, just based on a cursory review of the motion is that they were not new.

KEILAR: But was the information new? Even if the people weren't new, was the information new?

KELLY: I -- which information are you talking -- in terms of the being found -- her car being found behind the suspect's house? I mean, I can't speak to the specifics. All I can say is that the alleged Brady violations were contested by the attorney general of Maryland. You know, the Brady violations were quote/unquote under investigation still. So -- and from what the attorney general said yesterday, nobody ever talked to the trial prosecutor who wrote the note that a lot of this evidence is based on. It's a handwritten note by a prosecutor.

So, you know, here again, I don't want to get into the merits of it. The family just wants answers, you know.


KELLY: And what should have happened here is that a responsible prosecutor's office would have sat down with them and explained it to them and maybe they would have been on board with the motion. But what you don't do is you don't shut a family like this out of the process and sort of ram a deal like this down their throat.

And that's what happened yesterday. This family was railroaded. They were excluded. This was a done deal. The - I - you know, it made for good press. But it was devastating to this family. I mean, they are so devastated. I can't tell you. I can't even have a conversation with the family because they're just beside themselves. And understandably so. In shock. And here again, not so much as a result of the release, just as a result of the fact that they -- they just don't understand what happened.

KEILAR: Yes, they feel -- and they feel blindsided by this, Steve. And we appreciate you being here this morning to tell us about that.

Steve Kelly, thank you.

KELLY: Thank you.

KEILAR: Outrage erupting after several Oregon students yelled a bigoted chant during Saturday's football game against Brigham Young University.

BERMAN: And Fiona strengthens to a category three hurricane after unleashing catastrophic flooding in Puerto Rico. CNN is live on the ground.



BERMAN: This morning, the University of Oregon apologizing after video shows some students yelling an expletive ridden chant targeting Mormons during Saturday's football game against Brigham Young University.




BERMAN: Utah's governor shared the video on Twitter calling it an example of religious bigotry.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov here now with the details.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, the controversy gained momentum after Utah's governor tweeted that video but the University of Oregon was quick to say I'm sorry, tweeting, the University of Oregon sincerely apologizes for an offensive and disgraceful chant. And in a scathing letter sent to the school's own supporters on Monday, Oregon University President Patrick Phillips called the profanity-laced chants egregious behavior, reminding the school's community that some members of the Oregon football team are also members of the church.

He wrote, while some might see these chants as being directed against an opponent from another school, they are also an attack on all members in our community. How did they feel in that moment? I hope that everyone will reflect on the reality that what may seem like a lark to some tells someone else in our community that they are not welcome, that they should be afraid based on who they are and what they believe. Our path towards true inclusion starts with empathy for how others might be experiencing a given incident or interaction.

Now, following Phillip's letter, BYU released its first official statement on the chant, writing, we appreciate the sincere apology from the University of Oregon regarding the behavior of some fans at the stadium on Saturday. We recognize that this isolated behavior does not reflect the values of the University of Oregon.


BERMAN: Lucy Kafanov, yes, no place for that. Thank you so much. Elton John returning to the White House after performing there in 1998. We're going to look back at some of the biggest musicians to perform there.



BERMAN: Elton John is headed back to the White House. He will perform on the South Lawn Friday at an event titled "A Night When Hope and History Rhyme." The reason for the celebration not yet clear, but it's a title from the work of one of President Biden's favorite poets, Seamus Haney. Mr. John performed in 1998 at a dinner for then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and joins a long list of White House performers, including The Beach Boys in 1983.


THE BEACH BOYS (singing): If everybody had an ocean, across the USA, then everybody'd be surfing, like California.


KEILAR: The Temptations also performed in celebration of Black History Month during the George W. Bush administration.


THE TEMPTATIONS (singing): People moving out. People moving in. Why? Because of the color of their skin. Say it. Run, run, run but you sure can't hide. Hit me.


KEILAR: The Obamas hosted several musical events, including the 2016 "Love and Happiness Concert" featuring a performance by Bell Biv Devoe.


BELL BIV DEVOE (singing): Can't get it out of my head. Miss her, kiss her, love her. That girl is poison.


KEILAR: Earlier that year, the cast of "Hamilton" performed for local students.



HAMILTON CAST (singing): New York, New York, just you wait, Alexander Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton, are waiting in the wings for you, waiting in the wings for you.


KEILAR: The White House has also hosted Stevie Wonder, Ariana Grande and Aretha Franklin.

BERMAN: The winner, of course, which we left out, is Willie Nelson, who didn't just perform at the White House, he says he smoke pot with Jimmy Carter's son there. So, (INAUDIBLE) at that.

KEILAR: Yes, that's the winner.

BERMAN: All right, CNN's coverage continues right now.